Making Our Way Through Life's Dilemmas

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Text:  Philippians 1:21-30


            Wouldn’t it be nice if making decisions came easier with the hairs grow gray, the issues would become more black and white…we could more clearly distinguish between right and wrong…and our wisdom would clearly separate what is foolish?  Am I wishful thinking?  I must be because that isn’t the case for me.

            I’m afraid that as we get older the decisions don’t get any easier.  I’m even thinking that the older we get, the decisions we have to make are even tougher and not as well-defined.

            Dilemmas are like that.  They are complicated, fuzzy and make us scratch our head as we try to decide if this is right or wrong.  Dilemmas are that way because with each of them there are advantages and disadvantages to both sides.  No matter which side you choose, you lose something; there’s no clear winner in the decision.  That’s why dilemmas put us between a rock and a hard place.

            If you have ever felt the pressure and confusion of having to decide something that wasn’t black and white, then you have probably experienced one or all three kinds of dilemmas:

1)  Choice Dilemmas – When we want to do two different things at the same time.

2)  Emotional Dilemmas – When we have conflicting feelings about a difficult situation.

3)  Location Dilemmas – When we desire to be in two places at the same time…move or stay.

In our text tonight we find Paul wresting with a dilemma that is all three.  Read Text.

1.      What is Paul’s dilemma according to verses 21-22?  (The thought of martyrdom didn’t depress Paul.  He was even homesick thinking about heaven with Jesus, unshackled and free.  For him, dying would be a gain.)

2.      Since dilemmas have both benefits and problems, let’s look at what his choices would be. 
A)  List the benefits if Paul chose to depart.  (Instantly be with Christ, free of pain of this world, like stonings, beatings, imprisonments; no more thorn in the flesh, living in danger, hunger, thirst, sleepless nights; rather he would have unending peace in the presence of God.)  Ps. 16:11
B)  List the problems if Paul chose to depart.  (He would be absent from those who needed him; abandoning those new to the faith, which would hamper their growth; no longer able to witness to the Roman guards; no more journeys to other towns; churches would no longer have the benefit of his authority and wisdom.)
C)  List the benefits if Paul chose to remain.  (He could continue nurturing Christians to mature in the Lord; he would continue to receive joy in his relationships with people close to him; his writing ministry would continue.)
D)  List the problems if Paul chose to remain.  (He would remain chained to Rome instead of going home to heaven; he would continue to experience the hardships of this life; he would be that much further from the personal embrace of his Savior.)

3.      Having thought through the issues, Paul made a decision to resolve his dilemma for now.  What was it according to 1:25-26?

4.      In making his decision to stay, who does Paul state has the greater benefit?  (The Philippians have the greater benefit; to help them in their progress and joy in the faith and so they can be confident that they would get to see him again.)

5.      With the dilemma settled in his mind, he changes his focus towards the Philippians and issues them a challenge (1:27-30).  What is it?  (He wants to see them conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel, standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the gospel; don’t be distracted by opposition; expect to suffer for Christ.)

6.      What does the witness of standing in solidarity and harmony do for those one the outside looking in?       Do you think those who get caught up in church squabbles think about this in the middle of the quibbling?       Should they?

7.      Put verse 28 into your own words.  (The presence of opposition assures us we are on the right path in our witness; the very presence of opposition clearly defines who is on the path to destruction and who is on the path to heaven.)

8.      Paul states several reasons why we have no reason to be shy or hesitant in the middle of opposition in these verses.  Why?  (We are not alone; we strive together for the gospel.  Ultimately the victory is ours – heaven.  It weeds out the insincere ones who only want an easy path.  He reminds them the conflicts they face, he has faced it too.)

9.      Do you find hope and encouragement when God puts in your path someone who has already been through what you’re currently facing?


            Making right decisions in the middle of a dilemma is tough.  It forces you to rethink your priorities and consider the importance of Christ in our lives.  When prioritizing things in your life, consider which of these two models is the wiser.

            God                                                                 God

            Marriage                                                          God in my Marriage

            Family                                                              God in my Family

            Work                                                               God in my Work

            Other Things                                                     God in Other Things

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